A millionaire in our midst
This week’s cover star Chris Bischoff and his brother Nic raised R1.5m on Kickstarter for their new computer game, Stasis. Impressive though it may be, the Kickstarter campaign wasn’t the brothers’ first foray into the millionaires’ club.
Growing up, the brothers knew that they wanted to run a company together, even though they weren’t quite sure about the industry. As a high-school student, Chris worked with his interior designer dad doing illustrations for the restaurant industry. Choosing not to pursue a degree, he spent t wo years honing his craft and building a small client base. When their parents decided to move to Durban, Chris approached his largest client for a full-time job to sustain him. He was per manently employed as an architectural illustrator for 18 months when opportunity came knocking. “At this time my brother was a lecturer at Damelin, which was doing some sort of restructuring. He got retrenched and got a very nice retrenchment package.”
Nic’s retrenchment money, about three months’ worth of his salary, and a computer that Chris took from his previous company instead of a 13th cheque, gave the brothers the boost t hat t hey needed to start their own agency, Burn. The company, which renders 3D illustrations of architectural projects, took its f irst steps in Nic’s kitchen. At that point the 3D illustration industry was non-existent locally. Aside from freelancers doing 2D hand illustrations and one other Durban-based company, the brothers offered a brand new service that would prove remarkably lucrative.
“We made as i f we were in the industry for 10 years,” Chris laughs. “The phone would ring and I would be in the background moving papers around to make it sound like there were more people in the office.”
The fact t hat t hey didn’t have offices meant that they would schedule meetings at their clients’ offices. This later became a trademark. “We said we’ll come to your office because we didn’t actually have an office, but that became a core component of our business. We go to our clients’ spaces and f it in with their schedules. We built our company around being able to go to people’s off ices to sit with t hem. Even t hough we now have offices and boardrooms and the rest of it, we don’t really have meetings at our studio.”
THE FIRST MILLION
“I can’t think of the date when we hit our f irst million, but we went out to dinner, and Nic said, ‘Oh, by the way, we made our f irst million.’ It was quite a surreal experience, especially because I thought it would be bigger as a personal thing. When you actually get there, you think t he ne x t million will actually be better, and then you think five million will be even better.”
Chris says t he best part about making your f irst million is proving to yourself that it is possible. “It makes the next one less daunting and you start to see the forest for the trees. You realise that you didn’t die doing it. It wasn’t a soul-crushing, horrible experience. It was a lot of fun to get there.”
ASIDE FROM FREELANCERS DOING 2D HAND ILLUSTRATIONS AND ONE OTHER DURBAN-BASED COMPANY, THE BROTHERS OFFERED A BRAND NEW SERVICE THAT WOULD PROVE REMARKABLY LUCRATIVE.
THE QUICK MILLION
“It was about three years into starting our company, Burn, that we got to our first large landmark, which was R1m. By comparison, the Kickstarter million took us 22 days to hit. Because we had done it before, we knew that we could do it. It sounds silly but you do get a confidence boost. Hitting the f irst $100 000 on Kickstarter was a relief. It was a cool experience because it happened a lot faster than the f irst one. You get that rush of making your f irst money. As a kid I used to house sit people’s houses and charged them R20 to walk their dog. You get that same sort of rush of, ‘ I did it, and I can actually do it!’ It gave us the conf idence to move for ward with the project.”
Visit Finweek.com for a video interview with Chris Bischoff.